There is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome. –Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
You probably know that Rachel Held Evans died last weekend — a fact that I’m still trying to process (while avoiding the articles and discussions, however sympathetic, that wrangle over her faith, her legacy, and her life). I didn’t know Rachel personally. And, unlike many of my friends, I came to her work only recently, so she played no part in my discovery of feminism, my early journey with questions, or my wrestling with issues surrounding the LGBTQ community. Yet despite her absence from my life for most of my formative years, I found her Searching for Sunday to be revelatory — precisely because I found so many of my thoughts and longings spilled across its pages. It was the experience of connection, of encounter, of knowing oneself not alone that C.S. Lewis has declared to be the purpose of reading and writing. And in the midst of an ongoing search for female writers — women of faith — to sojourn with, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.
Rachel is — Rachel was — only five years my senior. So I anticipated years and years of her presence, her wisdom, her compassion and insight, as companions on my journey. And, I suppose, I can still have those years, because, while Rachel isn’t here any longer, her work still is.
Yet I feel the ache nonetheless. An ache that doesn’t begin to compare with the loss her family is experiencing — the loss they’ll wake up with and go to sleep with and live with for the rest of their lives. Yet I grieve for the rest of us too. For we lost the voice, the leadership, the insight of a fierce, wise, articulate, Christ-loving woman just as she was coming into her own. And we are all of us poorer for it.
All of us, that is, but Rachel. She’s probably doing just fine.
The above quote is probably my favorite single statement from Searching, mostly because I think it sums up, so powerfully, what it looks like to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Rachel was someone involved in Kingdom work — shaking strongholds, speaking truth, and showing up with ointment for the wounds of both church and world.
May her example cause all of us to grow deeper in courage, in integrity, in compassion, and in wholehearted devotion. May we have the faith to ask questions, to wrestle, to show up, to love, and to not be afraid. May we follow Christ into the bruised places of the world. And may we be buried with our feet towards the sunrise.